Trading Stories, Working Lives: James Powell, an angola and merino spinner of Loughborough

Take a look at our latest Trading Stories, Working Lives occupational history – James Powell, a spinner of angola and merino in Victorian Loughborough.

Pause for a moment in Loughborough Market Place. A portly bronze man sits upon a podium, left leg outstretched; with a gentle smile he admires his single sock, patterned with zig-zags and dots. This is the Sock Man, a sculpture created by Shona Kinloch in 1998 to celebrate Loughborough’s hosiery heritage.

Many of my ancestors – almost too many to count – worked as framework knitters, trimmers and seamers in Loughborough. They formed the very fabric of the town. Yet when I see the Sock Man, one ancestor in particular springs to mind: it’s time to take a closer look at the working life of James Powell (1824-1906), a spinner of Pinfold Gate.

A quick shuttle through the census returns ( reveals that James – the son of stocking maker John Powell and Catherine (nee Taylor) – spent almost his entire working life as a spinner. What’s more, he lived on what is essentially one street – Pinfold Row, Street and Gate – for seventy years or so. Could I add a few zig-zags and dots to this rather plain material, spin a little colour into James Powell’s life story?

Download the full story here: James Powell, a spinner in Loughborough

Watch the film of workers clocking out at the Cartwright and Warner factory in 1900.

You might also like to take a look at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series:

Mary Jane and Clara Bramley, Victorian school mistresses and governesses

Len Collis, a professional musician

John George Collis, a publican in the news

John Collins, a Victorian woolcomber and taxidermist

Naomi Cave, a purse-maker, pub landlady and devoted mother

The Barker brothers in WWI

The Caves of Leicester – Tories or Whigs?

William and Samuel Whittle, yeoman farmers and rabbit warreners of Charnwood

Nathaniel Orringe, miller and baker of Shepshed

Tom Crew, football referee and broadcaster

Samuel Taylor, beadle of Loughborough

Thomas Norman, elastic web weaver

John W Barker & Son, painters and decorators

Mary Ann Norman, Victorian laundress of Paradise Place

John Collins, Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

John and George Firn, monumental masons

Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

The Harrisons: gardeners, nurserymen and seeds merchants

George Robinson, Victorian letter carrier